Leadership Notes #4 – The Servant Leadership Writings of Robert Greenleaf

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

As the modern creator of the servant leadership concept, the works of Robert Greenleaf are important to anyone wanting a better understanding of this concept. Greenleaf first enunciated the concept in a series of essays, which focused on different uses of the concept. Some of these essays are still available as stand along works, as well as part of several collections. All of these can be obtained from the Greenleaf Center (www.greenleaf.org).

The initial essays are “Servant as Leader” (1977), “The Institution as Servant”, “Trustees as Servants”, “Teacher as Servant” (1979), along with “Seminary as Servant”, “Spirituality as Leadership”, “The Leadership Crisis” and others.

There are 2 collections of essential essays readers should consider. The first is the classic “Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness”, published in a 25th anniversary edition in 2002. This collection includes: “Servant as Leader”, “The Institution as Servant”, “Trustees as Servants”, essays on servant leadership in business, education, foundations and churches, “Servant-Leaders” and more.

The second collection is “The Servant-Leader Within: A Transformative Path”, a more recent and shorter work, and includes: “The Servant as Leader” (original 1970 edition), “Teacher as Servant”, and “Life’s Choices and Makers”, along with introductory and supplemental materials. This work is useful for those wanted just a basic introduction to Greenleaf’s concept, otherwise I would recommend the first collection instead.

In 1996, two collections of his private (and previously unpublished) writings were published: “On Becoming a Servant Leader” and “Seeker and Servant: Reflections on Religious Leadership”. Of these two, I think the first collection would be of more interest to most readers. In 1998, “The Power of Servant-Leadership” came out. This is considered the final collection of his writings, and includes works such as “Old Age: The Ultimate Test of Spirit”, “Have You a Dream Deferred?”, “My Debt to E. B. White”, “Servant: Retrospect and Prospect”, “Seminary as Servant”, “The Leadership Crisis”, “Education and Maturity” and more.

If you are considering just one work, “Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness” would be the one I’d recommend. If you want to go further, getting “The Power of Servant-Leadership” should be next, then “On Becoming a Servant Leader”.

Most recently, a biography of Greenleaf, “Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership has been written. I haven’t read it myself, but for those wanting to learn more about Greenleaf, this would be a great resource.